Laura Martinez

In January 2015, Chef Laura Martinez's dream of opening her very own restaurant came true. La Diosa, or "the Goddess," is located in Chicago's affluent Lincoln Park District. It's menu is a fusion of Mexican and French cuisine inspired by her family, her mentor Charlie Trotter, and her training at Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago, Illinois.

Martinez, who has been blind since infancy, has always had a passion for cooking. She was initially referred to the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) through Moline High School, and went on to successfully graduate from the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired (ISVI). DRS Counselor Juan Ortiz then helped Martinez to develop a career plan that focused on culinary skills. Says Ortiz, "From the very first time I met Laura she was just so determined. You just knew she was going to be very successful".

DRS provided the funding for Martinez to attend culinary training at Le Cordon Bleu, College of Culinary Arts in Chicago. This training led to Martinez being hired by world renowned chef Charlie Trotter. Once Martinez was hired, DRS provided assistance, tools, and assistive technology to help her become successful in her career.

Martinez, though, always wanted to start her own business. So when Charlie Trotters closed down in 2012, she started on her quest to open La Diosa. Through a two year partnership between DRS and the Illinois Small Business Developmental Center (SBDC), a business plan was developed, and DRS supports for initial stock, equipment, and assistive technology were provided to help make La Diosa a reality. And, though the process has had it's challenges, Martinez kept persistent and focused on her goal.

Martinez speaks highly of the SBDC and their assistance with helping her to develop her business plan, as well as the assistance provided by DRS. Says Martinez, "DRS has given me the opportunity to develop my skills and knowledge to the best of my ability. I am also more independent economically and personally".

DHS' Division of Rehabilitation Services is the state's lead agency serving individuals with disabilities. DRS works in partnership with people with disabilities and their families to assist them in making informed choices to achieve full community participation through employment, education, and independent living opportunities.

To learn more, call 1-877-761-9780 Voice, 1-866-264-2149 TTY, (312) 957-4881  VP, or read about DRS's Services. Refer yourself or someone else for services using the online Rehabilitation Services Web Referral.